Within a period of 4 months, start-ups participating in the Venture Academy work on validating their business case, building a healthy team and raising funding. During the program, they are supported by experienced trainers, mentors and coaches. The program is an initiative of PLNT Leiden and the Life Science Incubator unlock_, both incubators for start-ups. Start-ups can register for the program until July 29 at the latest.
Everything a start-up needs to get off to a flying start is covered in the Venture Academy. In addition, the companies receive coaching and mentoring by sector specialists who support them throughout the program. After completing the fully subsidized program, the young companies are ready to raise their first round of funding.
Companies that focus on the field of Life Sciences and Health participate in the ‘Special Track’. Here, unlock_, a partner of PLNT, mentors the start-ups. unlock_ also serves as an incubator for start-ups, but is specialized in the Life Sciences and Health sector. This sector requires more in-depth knowledge about technical and legal matters such as patent applications.
Start-up companies can register for an intake interview directly through this link. After this introductory interview, there is an opportunity to apply for a spot in the Venture Academy. The deadline for registration is Friday, July 29, 2022. The kick-off of the program will take place on Friday, September 9. For more information, the full brochure is available.
Why Leiden and Science are Inseparable
Leiden is the city of science. Hidden behind the central station is a terrain of 110 hectare with over 60 science-based organisations established. This terrain, which is called the Leiden Bio Science Park (LBSP), is the biggest life-science cluster in The Netherlands. It isn’t a surprise that Leiden is proclaimed the City of Science 2022!
This year, the entire city of Leiden is themed in science. The European City of Science is also a cooperation project between Leiden University, the LUMC, University of Applied Sciences Leiden and the municipality of Leiden. For 365 days, the city of keys offers a program filled with exhibitions, events and activities for all ages. The goal of this 10th edition is to bring science closer to the community and environment. Therein also lies the charm of this event. The program is built for the curious minds, whether you’re an international scientist, inquisitive kid or a hardworking student, everybody is welcome and can indulge in this theme.
Leiden University is an important link in the connection between Leiden and science. The University was founded in 1575 during the Eighty Years’ War and has been one of the leading institutes of science and research ever since. This makes Leiden proud of its scientific history,, which shows in the ‘City of Discoveries’. Through 27 information points divided over the city, everybody is able to learn about the scientific history of Leiden in a modern way. The city of keys is proud to present these educational walking routes filled with fun facts and information. For example, did you know that medical applications like heart films and MRI-scanners were developed in Leiden? And that the origin of the universe was first revealed in Leiden?
Internationally, Leiden has quite a reputation for its high-quality scientific research. Besides this, the LBSP contains some of the big scientific names like Janssen Vaccines and HALIX (the manufacturer of the AstraZeneca vaccine). The LBSP is loaded with starting entrepreneurs, researchers and students which are working intensively on medical innovations for the future. Think of vaccines, ground breaking hospital equipment and even machines that can measure and produce medication to the milligram. The latter is an interesting initiative. The company, Doser, has a ground-breaking invention in the medical industry through 3D printed medicine. With the help from unlock_ they have grown significantly within a year and have secured multiple funding.
This example shows that Leiden has been the epicentre of science and health for decades now. With inventions of the past and innovations for the future, Leiden stays frontrunner in The Netherlands for life sciences and health. It is worth the effort to take a look at Naturalis, Corpus or one of the educational walking routes through the city centre. Leiden is the capital of science, and that deserves to be celebrated!
Written by Collin Bikkers
The 10 best tips for your Life Sciences and Health venture
Are you a student, an entrepreneur or a researcher who wants to launch your own product or company? Then read these ten essential tips to be as prepared as possible for entrepreneurship!
- Apply for a patent as soon as possible. There is nothing more disheartening than losing an idea or invention to another larger company or someone who steals it before your eyes. So always apply. Even if you think the idea may not have large potential. You could be wrong!
- Invest in the right number of employees with good qualities. It is important, especially in biotech, to have reliable and skilled employees on the work floor. Quality over quantity.
- Do not let entrepreneurship overshadow your private life. Life consists of much more than business and work. Try to find the right balance for yourself with a relaxing hobby or sport.
- Structure your business in a growth plan: write down concrete objectives. Think about when and how you want to achieve them. Make them realistic and consider how much time you really need for them. The clearer you make it for yourself, the easier it will be to measure whether you are on track.
- Invest in good cooperation with colleagues. It sounds logical, but it is personal ties that make the difference in the long run. Support people where necessary and show genuine interest. Nowadays, loyal employees are a luxury to be cherished.
- Make sure you have an extensive network with enough entrepreneurs with experience. Ask them for advice. They can help you to not make the same mistakes they suffered in their careers.
- Follow your intuition. Ask yourself how it feels rather than what it costs. Do not go for money and profit in the first place, but for the pleasure and with that, the quality in your work.
- Be patient. After all, research takes years. The better your idea, the more time you will probably need to eventually participate in the market.
- Always try to stand out from your competitors with a clear communication strategy. For example, always be accessible and respond to stakeholders as quickly as possible. Also when it comes to difficult subjects.
- Keep your organisation flat. Of course it is important to have some form of hierarchy in your organisation, but try to limit it. Flatter means more accessible, which makes it easier for everyone to communicate with each other and which results in a better functioning company.
If you have no idea where to start in setting up your LSH company and how to arrange everything that comes with it, it is advisable to turn to a professional mentor. In the Netherlands, for the Life Sciences and Health sector, this is unlock_. They have the network and the expertise to turn your idea into a successful business!
Written by Steven van Polanen
What PR can do for start-ups
As a starting entrepreneur, the media landscape can be a jungle where you must find a path to success without a tour guide. Many researchers and scientists have beautiful innovations but are missing the tools and knowledge to put their businesses in the spotlight. In this article, you will read more about the power of PR for start-ups, tips for using communication correctly and how to grow from idea to full-fledged player.
PR is an undervalued expertise which can be very useful for a lot of companies, provided it is used in the right way. As a start-up, you don’t have much to lose yet in terms of reputation or image damage . Nevertheless, it is definitely worth the effort to build on a positive brand image. As a company in the scientific sector, you already have an advantage. Lots of scientific news has a positive side, think: innovations, new studies and results or prototypes of new ground breaking instruments. These kind of stories are popular amongst press and journalists because everyone wants to hear good news.
The advantage of having your own media planning is that you have the control and the power to decide where and when something appears in the news about your company. Of course, that isn’t the full story. PR requires creating content, developing strategies and building a network with people. To help you with these subjects, here are some tips:
- Determine your target audience
The first step in the process is to determine who you are targeting with your communications. Do you want more brand awareness? Are you looking for interns? Do you want to generate attention for your product, service or event? These kind of questions will help you to get a clear view of what you want to communicate, and more importantly, to whom.
- Focus your communications
Lots of people think that a press release to a large news or press bureau is enough to get the job done. They couldn’t be more wrong. Some organisations have to acknowledge that their story does not have enough news value for the general public . Try to reach out to a local newspaper, magazine or radio station. These types of media are generally keen to write about neighbourhood success stories. In the end, they are looking for content too. In many cases, this strategy is a lot more effective. Shoot with aim!
- Check out your content options
A company is almost never boring. There always is some kind of success story, victory, elevating or turbulent period or interesting group of people within an organization. Creating content may be easier than it appears. For example, interviewing a few employees or colleagues could be a great first step. Make sure you ask about the reason why they chose to work for your business. Even though it may not result in a newsworthy story, it could be a great tool for brainstorming and having insight in the strengths of your company. Also, writing a blog isn’t a crazy idea. When you think about it, you will definitely come up with some interesting subjects or topics with added value for the industry you’re working in. These things can be great content for your social media.
- Determine when to use media
To have news or content is a one thing, but timing it in the media for the most effective conversion is another. Good timing will help your message to stand out from the rest. For example, think of an announcement for an event which you want to generate attention for. Usually a week before the event is the best moment to release your message to the media. There are some useful tools that can help you find a suitable moment, like the notable dates calendar. This shows all the annual events from Father’s Day to Christmas and Leiden science 2022 to unlock_LiveScience at Naturalis. By communicating in a targeted way and choosing the right moment, you will make the difference between ten stories in different news providers and a publication somewhere in the back of a weekly magazine.
Using these tips, the basics of your strategy can be secured. Lots of the components of PR aren’t rocket science but do require some attention. Building a reputation goes step-by-step and, with the establishment of the right network, can be vital for (starting) entrepreneurs. Content, timing and networking are the key factors and the guides that will lead you through this crazy media jungle.
Written by Collin Bikkers
The 4 latest brilliant inventions in biotech
Developments in health and science are always interesting. Especially because it can help you when you need it. Recently, four companies have actually turned their idea into an innovation: EXIT071, RespiQ, Doser and Imuno Therapeutics. This is the perfect opportunity to highlight the remarkable inventions of these start-ups!
Nowadays, there are of course various methods for diagnosing diseases, such as biopsies, punctures and blood sampling. The big disadvantage unfortunately is that they penetrate tissue and damage it. EXIT071 has created a way to diagnose the disease just as precisely, without penetrating the patient’s body (non-invasive). Through so-called exosomes, particles that every cell in our body secretes, it is now possible to see whether someone has a disease and to what extent it has progressed. These particles can be found in, for example, saliva and urine.
Another non-invasive health indicator has been devised by the company RespiQ. They have designed a device that can detect diseases from molecules in your breath. Certain diseases produce molecules or ‘biomarkers’ that subsequently enter the lungs through the bloodstream. The handheld breathalyser detects which biomarkers are present. Thanks to the breathalyser’s high sensitivity, it measures the slightest change in concentrations. This allows it to warn of emerging health problems even before symptoms exist. This means faster treatment. Another advantage is that people can use this themselves and in their own homes.
The next invention also takes an important step in the medical world. 3D printing of objects already existed of course, but Doser is taking it a few steps further. They are the brains behind 3D printed medicines. This allows everyone to receive personalised treatment, which means that fewer pills may be needed and people will experience fewer side effects. Moreover, the pills can be made in any shape and different colours and flavours. Very beneficial and especially convenient for the youngest patients.
Last, but certainly not least, is the company Imuno Therapeutics. They focus on a more effective treatment of cancer with immunotherapy. This treatment method supports or activates the immune system to attack cancer cells. By even better visualization of what cancer cells look like on the cell surface, Imuno Therapeutics can develop medicines that recognise this surface and thus kill the cancer cells. In this way, they directly create and build a portfolio of targeted therapies. This can offer an improved life expectancy for patients with metastatic cancer.
To summarize; all these ingenious researchers are working on solving the most complex health problems of the modern world. Today’s technology offers the chance to create personalised treatment plans for an increasing number of diseases.
These four innovative ideas have developed into growing startups with the help of the year-long incubation programme of unlock_, based in Leiden. The programme covers all phases of entrepreneurship in the Life Sciences and Health sector and provides access to a vast network with many experienced entrepreneurs. The four startups will all settle in the Leiden Bio Science Park.
Written by Steven van Polanen
Investing in science-based startups in Leiden
Libertatis Ergo Holding B.V. (LEH) portfolio
Libertatis Ergo Holding B.V. (LEH) is an independent, wholly owned subsidiary of Leiden University which creates, supports and invests in companies related to Leiden University’s activities, many of which are located on the Leiden Bio Science Park.
LEH currently supports about 40 startup and spinout companies aimed at increasing the impact of Leiden University. Among these companies are unlock_ startups Imuno Therapeutics, Doser, EXIT071 and VitroScan. LEH holds the patent portfolio of the University, and patent management services are outsourced to the Luris, the technology transfer office of Leiden University.
For more information about LEH’s portfolio, visit their website.
Doser secures investment to deliver the first 3D printed tablets to patients
Libertatis Ergo Holding B.V. and Stichting Apothekers in Loondienst invest €500k in Leiden based startup Doser.
Customised or personalised medication is currently expensive and not widely available. Doser has developed 3D printing technology with cartridges that can manufacture medicines available through pharmacies, to enable easy, affordable and safe personalised medication with many applications; lower dosage, easier to swallow or better tasting medication for children, or personalised medication to avoid side effects for individuals. Doser wants this technology to become a standard of care, affordable, and available to all.
Libertatis Ergo Holding (LEH) and Stichting Apothekers in Loondienst (SAL) are strategic partners, with a strong network of pharmacies, doctors, caregivers and investors. Their investment, together with the previous investments from a.o. Zuid Holland, Rabobank, NFKC & NWO, will be used to build more printers, and deploy them in various Dutch pharmacies to deliver the first 3D printed tablets to patients in 2022.
Doser Co-Founders Arjan van Unen and Niels Ouwerkerk: ‘ This is a crucial step proving our promising technology to doctors, pharmacies and patients.’
Leiden startup Panorama Laboratories aims to use technology to ease the administration of lab work
Good laboratory research is always accompanied by paperwork in which every action is meticulously recorded. This ensures well-founded scientific results, but the administration of it is a pleasure for few lab technicians. The Leiden startup Panorama Laboratories is trying to do something about that.
“This is a mechanical pipette like you find in labs worldwide,” Jan Zender demonstrates his startup’s invention. “To this we attach our device. For now, we call it by its working name: Panorama Beacon, a 3D-printed housing containing chips and instruments that transmit the pipette’s movements wirelessly to a computer.” It’s an unremarkable white enclosure. As a layman, you’d think it just came with the pipetting device. “That’s exactly the idea; we want to take a tedious task off the hands of lab workers without disrupting their normal way of working.”
Zender and his partner Max Green – they met a few years ago in the Leiden startup scene – have been working on their Beacon since 2018, which is now really starting to take shape. Green: “We came up with the idea when, for an earlier project, we had built a device that took pictures of laboratory samples. Normally, you then print a kind of Polaroid that you can stick into your lab journal. We found that difficult to work with, so we created a link to Google Drive that allowed us to get those photos directly digitally. It was a convenience for our own research, but when other people in the lab were impressed by it, we only realized the possibilities of such a system. Although the project with the photo machine later stopped, the idea of automating lab journals didn’t leave us.” The lab journals that Green is talking about are indispensable to research. They are logs that record exactly what a scientist does so that you can later rely on the correct results of the research. Also, anyone who wants to get a drug approved by the authorities for consumer use must be able to submit lab journals: if you don’t have accurate records, there will be no approval.
EXIT071 selected as one of 50 women-led deep-tech startups under the new Women TechEU pilot programme
Yuliya Shakalisava, PhD founder of EXIT071, is one of 50 women selected for the Women TechEU initiative which supports deep-tech start-ups led by women.
About Women TechEU
Deep tech accounts for over a quarter of Europe’s start-up ecosystem, with European deep tech companies now valued at a combined €700 billion and counting. Yet women remain largely underrepresented across this industry.
Founded on innovation in engineering and advances in science, deep tech start-ups tend to have longer R&D cycles, and often take more time and capital to build than other start-ups. Most could fail in their first years if they do not receive the right support and investment early on. Women in deep tech often face the additional hurdle of gender bias and stereotypes, particularly prevalent in sectors like technology.
Funded under the European Innovation Ecosystems work programme of Horizon Europe, Women TechEU is a brand new initiative of the European Union. The scheme offers first-class coaching and mentoring to female founders, as well as targeted funding to help take their business to the next level. Women TechEU offers:
- Financial support to the company as an individual grant of EUR 75 000 to support the initial steps in the innovation process, and the growth of the company,
- Mentoring and coaching provided by the EIC Business Acceleration Services (BAS), under the new “Women Leadership Programme”, which include dedicated networking and pitching events,
- The possibility to participate in dedicated activities organised by InvestEU and Enterprise Europe Network.
The pilot scheme launched on 13 July supports a first cohort of up to 50 promising women-led start-ups, starting from 2022.
Read more in this press release
€350,000 for startup EXIT071 from UNIIQ and LEH
Proof-of-concept fund UNIIQ, together with LEH (Libertatis Ergo Holding), is investing a total of €350,000 in the Leiden startup EXIT071. EXIT071 is developing a new technique for the analysis of exosomes. Exosomes are small particles (extracellar vesicles) in blood that contain specific information about their place of origin (e.g. brain, liver, etc.). This information could play a major role in diagnostics, but currently it is still technically difficult to isolate and characterize exosomes from complex biological samples. With their patented microfluidic chip, EXIT071 can analyze exosomes in a rapid, reproducible manner, for diagnostic and therapeutic applications. The investment will be used for fine-tuning the chip, developing a system that automates the analysis process, team expansion and strengthening the IP position.
Applications of exosomes show promise
EXIT071 is an early-stage startup dedicated to developing innovative technology for the analysis of exosomes. Exosomes are relatively new to the field of diagnostics and therapy, but have great potential. They are nano-sized particles made by all cells to exchange messages among themselves. They provide a snapshot of health or disease status of organs and are present in all body fluids (blood, urine, cerebrospinal fluid, tears, etc.). Thus, they offer enormous potential for non-invasive liquid biopsy diagnostics for oncology, pulmonary diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, and prenatal diagnostics, among others. Analyzing exosomes in such biopsies can reveal diseases by comparing changes in the amount of exosomes and molecular contents (proteins, miRNAs, metabolites) of diseased cells with those of healthy cells. In addition to their diagnostic potential, the therapeutic potential of exosomes has recently been recognized, including through investments of €2bn, in 2020 alone, by pharmaceutical companies and Venture-Capital parties.
Current methods perform inadequately and are cumbersome. With EXIT071’s microfluidic chip, it is possible to separate exosomes with higher purity and yield. In addition, the chip is suitable to be used in a high-throughput setup. The original technology, depletion zone isotachophoresis, was invented and patented at Leiden University by Prof. Thomas Hankemeier, Head of the Analytical BioSciences and Metabolomics group and co-founder of MIMETAS. EXIT071 recently signed an exclusive licensing agreement and plans to bring their deep-tech innovation to the therapeutic and diagnostic exosome industry.
Nanotechnology as key to innovation
Nanosized structures are an important part of the operation of microfluidic chips and they are very challenging to produce. Therefore, EXIT071 collaborated with SINTEF MiNaLab in Norway, a professional supplier of nanotechnology, to ensure consistent and high quality. The production process of the chip was developed within academic collaboration in a EuroNanoMEd 3 Project, EXIT (EXosomes Isolation Tool.) The startup is led by founder and CEO Dr. Yuliya Shakalisava, expert in microfluidic technology. The technology will be further developed in collaboration with Leiden University with advice from Prof. Thomas Hankemeier.
The investment will be used for fine-tuning the chip, developing a system that automates the analysis process, team expansion and strengthening the IP position.
Yuliya Shakalisava, CEO EXIT071: “This investment from UNIIQ and LEH enables further development of our technology. It will allow us to accelerate the development of an automated prototype of our system and enable intensive collaboration with our customers. This is essential for the commercialization of our technology.”
Hans Dreijklufft, Fund Manager at UNIIQ: “We are proud to be able to accelerate the development of this innovative startup at this early stage. The field of exosomes has been booming in recent years and we look forward to the contribution EXIT071 will make to it.”
Rob Mayfield, LEH: “EXIT071 is a shining example of what can be achieved by combining high-quality research from Leiden University, the entrepreneurial spirit of a talented scientist, the support of a Leiden life-science incubation program (unlock_), and Leiden investment capital in collaboration with UNIIQ.”
This text has been translated from uniiq.nl/